Benjamin Netanyahu knows how to pick his battles. The Israeli prime minister’s mission in visiting Berlin Monday was not to get Chancellor Angela Merkel to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord but to get them on the record agreeing that Iranian aggression in the Middle East must be stopped.
He got that, but it’s questionable how much it’s worth in practical terms. Ms. Merkel has perfected waffling to a fine art and she gave a first-rate performance as she agreed aggression must be stopped but the accord must be respected.
In a single sentence that would have done any German academic proud — it was 111 words long — Ms. Merkel agreed that Israel and Germany were in agreement to “undertake all diplomatic efforts” to restrain Iran’s ballistic program and activities in Yemen and Syria.
Now that the United States has withdrawn from the nuclear accord, rehashing its pros and cons is “secondary,” Mr. Netanyahu said. It is rather the Iranian aggression that should have Germany worried. Iran is sending Shiite militia into Syria to convert Sunnis, he warned, and this will lead to a religious war. “The consequences of that will be many, many more refugees, and you know exactly where they’ll come,” he said.
It is this Iranian aggression that is drawing Israel nearer to some of the Arab countries in the region, the prime minister said. He did not mention Saudi Arabia by name, but that country has recently made friendly overtures to Israel. This goes beyond mutual concern about Iran to a realization that Israel can contribute to their economic development as well. “Ultimately this is the most promising route to have peaceful development with the Palestinians as well,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
The Israeli prime minister is also meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May during his lightning European visit as part of his effort to turn international public opinion against Iran, nuclear accord or not.
In Berlin, he repeatedly underlined how much the countries are in agreement, just in case anyone failed to takeaway the message from Ms. Merkel’s convoluted sentences. “I have to tell you that there is no problem at all in our communication,” is the way he summed it up, “and in many ways we agree on important goals including on the question of stopping Iran’s aggression.”
Darrell Delamaide is a writer and editor for Handelsblatt Global in Washington, DC. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.